Yeoman: Solitaire (2008)
Posted by Queren Stewart, 3rd June, 2008
First I must congratulate Colin and crew on another well run 3 Rivers. I must admit that with the lack of wind forecast I wasn’t expecting many to finish this year.
Well, we on the good ship Solitaire had an interesting race managing to arrive home in our best ever time but in our worst ever position (provisional around 55 I think)!!
First the excuses, due a to family bereavement we hadn't as fully prepared Solitaire as previous years and we hadn't practised anything with our new third team member and none of us had flown a kite before without an "expert" " in control".
Saying that, we had a perfect start (the number 2 start) being first across the line and leading for oooh…… a couple of hundred yards, however we did get the kite up and promptly came up against the back of the first start of white boats, which slowed us considerably. Very shortly after, a lot of the lighter boats from later starts arrived and sailed through including a yellowish decked wayfarer making remarks that they expected us to do better.... Well, we drifted along until we started to get better winds (Solitaire has always sailed poorly in low winds). Then we started picking off a few boats as we went. At Ant mouth it was final decision time, we decided to go for "two legs and down"; going up the Ant we rapidly began to doubt this decision as we came onto our first logjam - two motor cruisers hard on the bank trying to stay out of the way while half a dozen competitors tried to get passed at the same time, and this same group shortly came across a couple of cruisers wondering what nearly hit them!! Anyway got almost to the turning point when, while three abreast, a large sailing cruiser (competing) shouted for water while clear behind and caused us smaller fry to have to tack early to avoid a collision. We lost out a bit at that point but soon recovered and turned to go back with no real incident happening until we reached South Walsham
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Here, as we approached the buoy another large cruiser with superior speed just managed to get above us before the buoy to be followed by another Yeoman who squeezed in the gap left. So we had to go past a fair way and return on the other side of the buoy, gratifyingly we still re-past that Yeoman before the first corner after exiting the broad. After that it was just a case of sailing as well as we could to Acle.
We approached the bridge in our assigned positions with me clambering onto the back shouting the memorised instructions, "paddles back" (from under the deck) "furl the jib" (my job anyway) " jib down to spreaders kicking strap off" Pamela’s job as she knelt down by the mast support. “main down lower the mast" Clive's job the other side of the mast. We have an A frame so it comes down reasonably straight but I have to catch it to place it into the jaws of the mast support on that back. Just one quick U turn was needed as we got to the bridge too quickly with a large professional TV type camera above waiting for someone to make a mistake!!
Then it was paddle like mad but here we came across another of our unprepared-ness, we had forgotten the third paddle for me to use!! (Luckily our bridge / tide timing was very good this year and we were only against the tide at Potter on the way back). The routine to put the rig back up is the reverse of before but it starts with me lifting the mast past 45 degrees till the A frame takes over. We overtook a couple of boats at every bridge so our routine seemed to work!! It was another incident free leg down till we eventually found the buoy then Solitaire came into her own she is set up for going to windward very well and we started picking off many more boats on the way up with only one incident when having just past a cruiser (to leeward) her Bowsprit just came down and neatly took our aft light support bracket off the mast crutch.
The route to Hickling was without incident and as we were a third of the way across the broad Sally Dugdale (the eventual winner) passed us going out so we were not that far behind (perhaps half an hour) in fact Sally had passed us as were on the approach to each turning point. So, as I know she’s a very good sailor and has been doing this race for many more years than me I was quite happy at this time..
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On the return leg we just about got to Potter Bridge at lighting up time around 21:00. We thought great, a very early finish... I've sailed back from there in under four hours (not in Three Rivers though) then of course the wind started dropping and we drifted down to the Bure. Where surprisingly it picked up again and we sailed back quite happily picking off the odd boat. Until we got to the Ant that is. Unfortunately several Cruisers and other assorted boats rejoined the main river just before us and as we got to the first Ubend in the river (Known in HSC as Paddy's Oak) the first Cruiser logjam occurred, we got past them, only for them to have re-passed us shortly after as they got the wind above the trees with us slowing to a drift again.
Then on to the water works / Church straight where the wind really gave way we spent over an hour stuck wind against tide, us drifting forwards and back as one got stronger than the other. Each time we thought we would get going a cruiser would ghost above us and sail on past as we drifted back again when we finally ran out of cruisers behind us we got going again... just.
Then it was on to this year’s mega jam outside the New Inn with all those stern on moored cruisers. However we were lucky getting though on our third attempt partly helped by a push / bump from behind by yet another cruiser. Then ‘Yippee’ we sailed happily for home some time around 5ish, two other Yeomen in the same jam took nearly an hour more to get home. Well that's it - this years Saga of Solitaire.
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